The strong performances and creative potential of Jack Ivimy’s Dialektikon is undermined by a bizarre concept and over-ambitious, confused content.
The world is cruel, unjust and relentless: one of my main takeaways from Jack Ivimy’s 90-minute Dialektikon at the Park Theatre. As the two-man band strike their first notes, we’re transported to a magical dreamland with Miranda – a young naïve girl from a small African village struggling with an abusive father and dying grandma – as she is taught the ways of the world through metaphor and symbolism.
The ways of the world include poverty, war, the mistreatment of mental illness, racism, sexism, global warming – and that was just in the first 45 minutes. Needless to say, the play tries to tackle a wealth of complex issues in a short space of time. Miranda (Mary Nyambura) is taken on a journey through these harsh subject matters with the help of a symbolically devilish (Benjamin Victor) and wise angelic (Sabina Cameron) advisor on each shoulder. Each of these major world issues is then expanded upon in detail by a notable man from history, with the dominance of male historical storytelling and the absence of women also being confronted later in the play.
The idea is an interesting one, showing a young women the harsh realities of the world in order to help her better deal with her own life experiences. However the execution was below par and made the concept seem somewhat farcical. The use of ‘great men from history’ – including Allen Ginsberg, Ronald Laing, Stokley Carmichael and a poor rendition of David Attenborough (though never called out by name) – may have worked if they hadn’t turned into caricatures of themselves, preaching clichéd proverbs that kept me clock-watching. Whilst some of these performances were notable, they’re let down by a poor script.
For an hour and a half, there’s no break in this narrative of the pitiless human condition, no silver lining showing that people are also capable of love as well as war – or that good and happiness exists in our current climate as well as despair. It’s 90 minutes of drudgery with no one exploring the more engaging and stimulating question of ‘where do we go from here’?
The only thing that manages to uplift this hectic and over-complicated play is its clever and creative use of stage, lighting, and sound design. Simple and inexpensive torches, sheets and reflective surfaces were used to bring the play to light and really gave the cast a lot to work with. Unfortunately though, this only really added to how much was going on within one small stage area. Cameron shows power and grace in her portrayal of Ayida and Victor keeps up an incredible amount of contagious energy, with so much going on around him. I just hope they get to use their talents for something that goes deeper into the crux of one issue rather than tackling everything at once and leaving the audience drained and uninspired.